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Celtic boss Rodgers admits it would be hard to stop Dembele moving on

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers accepts it would be "morally" difficult to stop Moussa Dembele or any other players leaving the club if wages and the fee are right for all concerned.

The Ulsterman claimed there was "nothing" in speculation that an £18m move to Brighton for the 21-year-old French striker had been agreed.

Dembele started on the bench in the Hoops' 2-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park yesterday, which took the champions 11 points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

In-form wideman James Forrest opened the scoring from close range in the eighth minute, and former Dundee striker Leigh Griffiths added a second before the break, with Dembele - who moved to Parkhead from Fulham in 2016 on a four-year deal - making a cameo near the end.

Rodgers, who was happy with "a very, very good performance", was asked about Dembele after the match and said: "I haven't been informed about anything from the club. It is all part of the modern game.

"There will be interest, of course, but there is nothing in it.

"We don't want to lose any players and we won't lose any players.

"However, if there is something that comes in, it goes back to that issue, morally.

"If a player can earn five times as much as what he is on now then it is very difficult to stop him, especially if you get a fee for a player.

"But there is a lot that needs to be right. We don't need to sell anyone - that is the idea. But what is always important at Celtic, especially when you are doing so well, you know there is always going to be interest and you have to prepare forward for the 'what if'.

"And if we do lose any of our players, then we hope to have some to bring in to keep the continuation."

Rodgers had no problem with Josh Meekings' first-half tackle on Jonny Hayes, which saw the Hoops winger carried from the field on a stretcher with the Dundee defender also having to be replaced.

"There was nothing in it," the former Swansea and Liverpool manager said. "Two tough players, and let's hope they are okay.

"I was looking directly at his (Hayes) fibula to see what state his leg was in but it must have just been the clash of shin-pads.

"But he was down so it was clearly hurting him. The medical team tell me he will go for an X-ray and we will see where it is at, but we are hoping it is only bruising of the shinbone."

Dundee manager Neil McCann admitted his side lacked "a bit of aggression" and "bite", but stressed that Meekings' clash with Hayes was just two "committed players" coming together.

"That is a 50-50," he said. "Jonny was coming quick and was fully committed. I expect my centre-back to be fully committed as well, and unfortunately both players have come off injured."

Griffiths and Forrest had been brought back into the team by Rodgers along with midfielder Callum McGregor.

The champions almost forged ahead in the sixth minute when McGregor steered a Mikael Lustig cut-back past Dens Park keeper Elliot Parish from eight yards, only to see it hit the post.

Two minutes later Forrest was more exact when he finished off a fine move involving McGregor and Kieran Tierney, sweeping the pass from the left-back in at the near post for his 12th goal of the season.

The clash between Hayes and Meekings came just before the half-hour mark. The Bhoys were momentarily disrupted but regained control, and in the 43rd minute, after skipper Scott Brown had regained possession, fellow midfielder Olivier Ntcham sent Griffiths racing through and he dinked the ball over Parish.

After the restart, Darren O'Dea headed a Jon Aurtenetxe free-kick over the bar, but that failed to signal a Dundee comeback.

They kept pushing forward but Celtic held them out.

Dundee: Parish, Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O'Dea 26), Aurtenetxe Borde, O'Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El Bakhtaoui (Lambert 61), Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79).Unused subs: Holt, Curran, Waddell, Ferie.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney, Brown, Ntcham (Armstrong, 67 mins), Forrest, McGregor, Hayes (Johnston, mins 28), Griffiths (Dembele, 79 mins). Unused subs: Simunovic, Bitton, Edouard, De Vries.

Man of the match: James Forrest

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Kevin Clancy

 

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